Sky-Blue Pink

Grass pink ~ Calopogon tuberosus

 

Many years ago, a fellow blogger used the phrase ‘sky-blue-pink’ to describe something in one of her posts. I no longer remember what she was describing — a sunrise? a flower? a piece of clothing? — but I’ve never forgotten the phrase.

It usually comes to mind when I see the Belt of Venus, but it also seems appropriate for this grass pink orchid framed against a perfectly blue sky. By the time I return to the Big Thicket, these orchids will be near the end of their bloom period, but new delights will take their place as the cycle of the seasons continues.

 

Comments always are welcome.

Incoming!

Pseudodoros clavatus visiting a spring ladies tresses orchid

 

Not only humans enjoy ladies tresses orchids. Their small flowers present no obstacle to the variety of bees, flies, and beetles that visit them, nor to the tiny spiders that lurk among their folds.

Here, a syrphid fly with the impressive name Pseudodoros clavatus comes in for a landing. As an interesting side note, this little fly has no common name, unless you’re willing to count “that thing that looks like a wasp.”  Johan Christian Fabricius, a Danish zoologist, named the species Dioprosopa clavata  in 1794, but a 1903 revision resulted in Pseudodoros clavatus.

It’s been suggested that the wasp-like shape may help to protect the insect from predators. Taking on a syrphid fly is one thing: attacking a wasp quite another.

Can you see the infinitesimal headphones the little fly’s wearing? No? Well, if you could, and if it shared them with you for a moment, you might find it’s listening to perfect music for visiting a Spiranthes — Spyro Gyra’s Morning Dance.”

 

Comments always are welcome.

A Gathering of Ladies

Spring ladies’ tresses orchid (Spiranthes vernalis) ~ Brazoria Wildlife Refuge

On Saturday afternoon, this unusual sight greeted me at the Brazoria Wildlife Refuge. A spring ladies’ tresses orchid, taller than I’d ever seen, reached a full twenty-six inches into the air, swaying in the winds that were helping to form the clouds behind it.

Dark and wave-like, the clouds (Undulatus asperatus) were less dramatic at the refuge than in Houston proper, but they were noticeable all over the area. These ‘agitated or turbulent wave’ clouds form when rising air with some moisture content initiates widespread cloud cover, and wind shear blows across the rising air.

As for the orchids, a much smaller and differently-formed version growing nearby also seemed to be S. vernalis. Joe Liggio, an expert on our native species, writes in his Wild Orchids of Texas:

Several species of Spiranthes are so similar in appearance that either a hand lens or a microscope is sometimes required to distinguish one from another.

In truth, even with a hand lens these orchids can be immensely confusing. Still, between iNaturalist reports, various maps and descriptions, and others’ photos, I’m fairly certain these are the spring ladies’ tresses. There’s quite a history packed into this  single sentence from Liggio’s book:

The spring ladies tresses was first described in 1845 by George Engelmann and Asa Gray, based on a specimen collected on Galveston Island, Texas, by the German botanist Ferdinand J. Lindheimer.
S. vernalis seen against storm clouds ~ Brazoria Wildlife Refuge

I’m less certain about this beauty, one of a pair found along the edge of a pine-hardwood mix at the Watson Rare Plant Preserve on Sunday. Obvious green lines inside the flowers suggest Spiranthes praecox: a spring orchid common to east Texas and distinguished from all other Spiranthes orchids by those same lines.

Spiranthes praecox

Finally, there’s this little oddity: a Spiranthes orchid without a spiral. It seems to meet all the qualifications for S. brevilabris var. floridana, a variety found in both Hardin County and Tyler County, where the Watson Preserve is located. According to Liggio:

[The Florida variety] is hairless, and its flowers scarcely spiral at all. [It] also lacks the pronounced fringed margin on the lip. It grows in wet, sandy soil in wetland pine savannahs, pine-hardwood forests, and prairies of East Texas.
This orchid, rare throughout its range, is represented by only five known herbarium collections from Texas.

Whatever its true identity, its one-sided flowering makes for a beautiful and eye-catching curve.

 

Comments always are welcome.